Prizm News / July 16, 2019 / By Ken Schneck
Following the recent murder and assault of two gay men in Detroit via Grindr, BRAVO offers tips to stay safe
Prosecutors in Wayne County, Michigan report that two men in Detroit were recently targeted due to their sexual orientation after being contacted via a dating app. 31-year-old Brian Anderson was fatally shot and 26-year-old Malcolm Drake was critically wounded, having been contacted via Grindr by 26-year-old Demetris Nelson. Prizm spoke with Aaron Eckhardt, the Director of Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) to find out how we can increase our safety in this social landscape.
Regarding what happened in Detroit, do we have reports of that here in Ohio?
Yes, we have definitely had reports of assaults and homicides here. This is what we call pick-up hate and bias violence, meaning that someone uses a dating app to target others. Before apps, we would see this in the bars. People would walk in to get someone to go home with them to assault and murder them. It’s a similar story to what happened to Matthew Shepard. Now that point of initial contact is on an app rather than in public.
Let’s get right to it, what do we need to do to stay safe?
First, no matter how the victim or the survivor is assaulted, no matter how that comes to be, it’s never their fault that someone chose to hurt them. You can follow all these safety tips and be fine or you be harmed.
If someone is choosing to harm somebody, the best bet is to try to interrupt their script. The offender is on a track of finding someone who is easy to assault. Someone who asks a ton of questions or is direct and assertive can change that script.
Definitely let someone know where you are going and always watch your drinks. We have had a series of reports of people feeling like they have had their drinks drugged in Columbus. That’s unfortunately a more common report in the summer.
Another thing we can do to keep ourselves safe is to try to meet people in public. I know that’s not the most popular idea, especially on dating apps. We used to meet people in public first and now that’s stopping. Meet them in public first and ask yourself a series of questions. Are there are more people present than were anticipated? Does the person look like their picture? Are there people I know in this space?
The number one safety tip is to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You are always within your rights to leave a situation and, as we always tell people, “No.” is a complete sentence.
What can we do as friends and loved ones to support someone who has told us they have been assaulted?
Number one, believe them. It’s not our job as a friend to question. All too often what happens is that someone is assaulted and there can be a lot of embarrassment there. Society often blames the victim. Friends can be well-intentioned and say, “Well that bar, that app, that place is known for this.” But that line of comments can put the blame on the survivor.
Check in to see how they are feeling. Ask if they need someone to go with them to seek medical attention or to get tested. Friends can also be instrumental in helping the survivor contact social services like BRAVO.
Overall, believe them and offer help as you are able.
The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) provides comprehensive individual and community programs for survivor advocacy and support to LGBTQI survivors of hate and bias violence, discrimination, intimate partner violence, stalking, and/or sexual assault. Learn more by visiting http://www.bravo-ohio.org/.